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Amazon debuts Elemental-based AWS Media Services for video app creation


Video is what consumers are paying attention to these days, and Amazon’s AWS is hoping to capitalise on that with one of its latest launches. Doubling down on its video services for media companies, app publishers — and actually any other organization that has considered launching a video service — Amazon today announced a new suite of five video processing tools as part of AWS Media Services, cloud-based tools to help build, service and monetise video streams.

The new launch puts it into competition to some extent with the likes of Google’s YouTube and its efforts to work with media companies and other creators to build and host live streams and ad-based videos. Interesting timing, given all the negative press YouTube has had over the kind of content that it’s been hosting over the years.

The company also appears to refer to the product AWS Elemental Media Services. The “Elemental” in the name comes from AWS’s video business, formed largely on the back of its acquisition of Elemental Technologies for around $500 million in 2015, and supplemented with additional IP and talent by way of other purchases, including ThinkBox Software earlier this year.

The idea of AWS’s Media Services — announced on the eve of its big re:Invent conference, along with a big mixed reality push in the form of a new platform called Sumerian — is fairly disruptive for the video industry.

Up to now, building services like targeted advertising around a video stream required integrating with third-party providers. Similarly, to account for boosts in traffic, providers had to build in costly equipment to handle the capacity. Amazon’s aim is to take that out of the hands of the video providers, letting them essentially offload it to AWS, and its cloud — a vastly reducing the pricing for using such tools, as well as making it easier to use them full-stop.

“For the better part of six decades, professional-grade video workflows were limited to a few major industry players who could afford to build and maintain customized infrastructure that would be updated only once or twice each decade,” said Alex Dunlap, GM at AWS Elemental, in a statement. “These companies spent a great deal of time, money, and focus operating infrastructure with resources that could have been better spent creating great content and viewer experiences. We built AWS Elemental Media Services to let customers focus on delivering top-quality video reliably to any device, everywhere, without the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing infrastructure. This not only helps traditional video providers innovate faster, but it also opens up new opportunities for startups, government agencies, schools, and multinational enterprises that, before today, had limited access to premium-quality video technology.”

Video, however, is a medium that any publisher working in digital cannot ignore, either, if it’s hoping to find as many ways as possible to connect with people. According to figures from Zenith, online video viewing globally will rise 20% in 2017, to an 47.4 minutes a day viewing videos. Mobile video in particular is fuelling that boost, with the most growth compared to desktop.

Amazon says that companies using the new tools include BT, Pac-12 Networks, Amazon Prime Video, Fox Sports Australia, fuboTV, Nine, Spuul, M2A Media, Cinépolis, and IMAGICA.

Notably, Netflix — a huge customer for Amazon on the video hosting front — is not mentioned.

The five services cover different aspects of creating, streaming and making money off of videos:

AWS Elemental MediaConvert will let publishers format and compress video-on-demand content “for delivery to virtually any playback device, with high-quality video transcoding and broadcast-level features.”

AWS Elemental MediaLive will let publishers encode broadcast-grade live video for TV or connected devices.

AWS Elemental MediaPackage will help producers prepare “and protect” live video streams with extra tools such as immediate playback.

AWS Elemental MediaStore is a storage service for video (how could an AWS service not have this, I ask?)

AWS Elemental MediaTailor lets you monetize the videos with targeted (personalised) advertising. It’s not clear where the advertising tech is coming from here (we’re still looking) but it’s interesting to me to see Amazon moving deeper into this area, as it upends and directly competes with Google’s YouTube and its services for video creators.

The service is launching today after running in a closed preview for a while now with the above customers. Those using it can also integrate it with other AWS services, Amazon said: “AWS Direct Connect and AWS Snowball for content ingestion; Amazon CloudFront for content delivery; Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring; and Amazon Rekognition for artificial intelligence.” Let the Hunger Games begin.

Featured Image: Thomas Cloer/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE Readmore

Business

Oracle grabs Zenedge as it continues to beef up its cloud security play


Oracle announced yesterday that it intends to acquire Zenedge, a 4-year old hybrid security startup. They didn’t reveal a purchase price.

With Zenedge, Oracle gets a security service to add it to its growing cloud play. In this case, the company has products to protect customers whether in the cloud, on-prem or across hybrid environments.

The company offers a range of services from web application firewalls to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigation, bot management, API management and malware prevention. In addition, they operate a Security Operations Center (SOC) to help customers monitor their infrastructure against attack. Their software and the SOC help keep watch on over 800,000 websites and networks across the world, according to information supplied by Oracle.

Oracle says it will continue to build out Zenedge’s product offerings. “Oracle plans to continue investing in Zenedge and Oracle’s cloud infrastructure services. We expect this will include more functionality and capabilities at a quicker pace,” Oracle wrote in an FAQ on the deal (.pdf) published on their website.

Oracle’s recent acquisition history. Source: Crunchbase

Just this week Oracle announced that it was expanding its automation capabilities on its Platform as a Service offerings from databases to a range of areas including security. Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says the company is a good match as it also uses automation and artificial intelligence in its solution.

“Oracle is beefing up its security offerings in the cloud. They have one of the strongest cyber security platforms,” Wang told TechCrunch. “They also have a ton of automation that fits Oracle’s theme of autonomous,” he added.

Oracle is far behind cloud rivals as it came late to the game. Just this week, the company announced plans to build a dozen data centers around the world over the next two years. They are combining an aggressive acquisition strategy and rapid data center expansion in an effort to catch up with competitors like AWS, Microsoft and Google.

Zenedge launched in 2014 and has raised $13.7 million, a modest amount for a cloud-based security service. Oracle says customers and partners can continue to deal with Zenedge using their existing contacts.
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Bynder acquires digital asset management service Webdam from Shutterstock for $49.1M


Bynder, one of the leading companies in the digital asset management space, today announced that it has acquired Shutterstock‘s Webdam. The Amsterdam-based company tells us that it paid $49.1 million for Webdam, which Shutterstock itself acquired back in 2014.

Like Bynder, Webdam’s focus is on helping enterprises and agencies manage their digital assets. Currently Webdam customers include the likes of Starbucks, Zillow, Alaska Airlines, Subway, HTC and Band & Olufsen. In total, Webdam counts over 200,000 professionals and teams as its customers.

Bynder has more than 250,000 customers, which include PUMA and KLM. As the Bynder team notes, Webdam has a strong presence in the healthcare and education fields and is a strong player in the U.S. midsize company market. Bynder, on the other hand, has a strong international focus, so the two companies should be quite complementary. The acquisition also gives Bynder, which was founded in 2013 a physical presence in the Bay Area, where Webdam is headquartered. Bynder also has offices in Boston, London, Barcelona, Rotterdam and Dubai.

“There is a clear synergy in the culture and product vision at Bynder and Webdam. That’s why we see this as a strategic move that will greatly benefit both Bynder and Webdam customers,” said Bob Hickey, CEO of Webdam. “Our customers depend on high quality digital experiences to create marketing materials. We see this as a great opportunity of our customers’ continued success and a natural partner that will help us meet future industry demands.”

For the time being, both companies will operate as usual, but the plan is to roll out a combined product offering over the course of the next year. That means, at least for the time being, Webdam’s integrations with Shutterstock’s stock image service are not going to change either.

This move will also allow Bynder to better compete with the likes of Canto, Northplains, ADAM Software, OpenText Media Management and MediaBeacon. While you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about digital asset management, this is clearly a market that’s heating up. About a year ago, Aprimo, for example, acquired ADAM Software and chances are we’ll see more acquisitions in the area in the next year or so.
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Slack adds Edith Cooper to board of directors


Slack had added Edith Cooper, who most recently served as the global head of human capital management at Goldman Sachs, to its board of directors. As Slack prepares “for accelerated growth at scale,” Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield wrote in a blog post today, Cooper marks Slack’s second independent board member.

“She has an unrivaled depth of experience in the hardest challenges that modern organizations face, and Edith is going to be a huge asset as we continue to expand our capabilities,” Butterfield wrote. “She is a deep thinker, a good listener, and a wise strategist, and I’m thrilled to have her join us as Slack enters its next phase of growth.”

In March, Slack added its first independent board member, Square CFO Sarah Friar. Just last week, Slack named Allen Shim as its first-ever chief financial officer.

All of these appointments may signal Slack’s preparation to go public at some point. As Butterfield noted in his blog post, which he kicked off with some references to how public company executives operate, Cooper’s appointment is part of a longer-term plan to continue growing Slack.

Equally important, Cooper is a black woman. And it’s not just important from the ethical standpoint of inclusion, but from the perspective of financial bottom lines.

Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s 2018 report, “Delivering through Diversity.” And essentially the same goes for gender diversity, with companies in the top quartile for gender diversity being 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

This year has marked an increase in the number of black people on tech board of directors. Last month, both Airbnb and Facebook appointed Kenneth I. Chenault, the outgoing CEO of American Express, to their respective board of directors.

But the number of black women on tech company board of directors is very low. Of the major tech companies, Salesforce is the only other company with a black woman of its board of directors. Her name is Robin Washington, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Gilead Sciences.

Slack, which launched about four years ago, said in September it had six million daily active users. In September, Slack raised a $250 million round led by Softbank, which valued the company at $5.1 billion.
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